I recently came across an article on career planning written by a self-confessed Type ‘A’ personality … he claimed he likely came out of the womb telling the doctor how he could improve the delivery next time. He had a plan for everything in life… and so obviously one for his career as well. And how over a period of time he realized that it wasn’t only hard but perhaps ok to not have a plan at all. As a self-confessed non type ‘A’ personality … and for someone who thrives in chaos (and usually being the cause of it) … I couldn’t agree with him more.
When I was in college, my potential career choices at various times included professional sports, law enforcement, lawyer, etc. Never in my list of potential career paths did I consider Human Resources (HR). In fact, I had no clue what HR was (some would argue that not much has changed). Our industry did not exist then as it does now. With this background, it’s interesting that choices available to us in high school for my generation …when we were ~15 years old and had no clue as to where we were headed … were broadly three: science (doctor or engineer); commerce (accounting/finance) or liberal arts (law or civil service).
Today, it’s wonderful to see young people have so much flexibility in choosing what they want to do and changing that as they go along, since there are no fixed templates. On the flip side, today we live in a world so full of possibilities and with so much information available to us, it might seem overwhelming to make a decision about our career paths. Having experienced so little in life, how could we possibly know what we want to do with the rest of our lives? I’d say take the time to think about it and then pick something for now. That doesn’t mean pick something forever. And that doesn’t mean quit thinking about it and move blindly forward. The point here is experience. You choose to learn something from every experience and the wisdom gained will shape you and your career path as long as you live.
And it’s equally applicable to those working in organizations like ours. Clearly while those building domain expertise are likely to have terrific opportunities … those gaining general management skills across functions and businesses also have a bright future. But going forward, less-than-logical experiences are more and more likely to positively impact future careers too, especially as innovation and lateral thinking become key factors.
Our experiences today shape who we will be tomorrow, so we must not pigeonhole ourselves into a career that exists today. Instead, let’s step outside our cubicles, experience all that we can, and be open to the possibilities of tomorrow. Today, I have no specific career plan. I never did. At different times in my career I have been asked where I’d like to go next … I have replied with “I don’t know.” I love where I am. I have a variety of things I might consider in the future but in the meantime I continue to explore new experiences that will shape my next steps…